The Gaur Which Ended A Shikar Career

Major Khan

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Tonight with all of my dear readers , l am going to relate a story of an extremely dark day in my career as a professional shikaree in Nagpur , India from 1961 to 1970 . In all probability , it was the darkest day in my shikaree career. This is the story of the gaur which ended my best friend , Tobin Stakkatz's career as a professional shikaree . A little word of warning is imperative here . This story is a little graphic and depressing , so reader discretion is advised .
Let us go back now to 1969.

Below , l have provided a photograph taken by myself of a gaur killed by Tobin and l . However , the gaur in the photograph is not the brute which features in this article .
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Major Khan

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It was the 7th of January , 1969. My good friend and fellow professional shikaree , Tobin and l had successfully returned to Nagpur after guiding an American gentleman on a shikar for an Asian Sloth Bear near the caves of Poojaree just a few days before ( I know that l have repeatedly stated in my writings that shooting Indian forest panthers was my favorite sport . However hunting Asian Sloth Bears and guiding shikars for Asian Sloth Bears ranks as a very close 2nd . Even today , l absolutely love shooting the odd Asian Sloth Bear which breaks into the private property owned by any of my friends and l spend most of my time on African Hunting Forums reading about how my brother American sports men hunt the large Kodiak and grizzly bears in their mother land with immense enthusiasm . )

Our employer , Mr. Shukla ( the owner of Allwyn Cooper Limited ) had a new client for us to guide . He was an Australian gentle man and he had booked Allwyn Cooper Limited's budget " Fur & Feather " package deal , costing $ ( American Dollars ) 3800 ( all inclusive ) .
For the " Feather " the gentleman had chosen a dozen Indian ducks . For the " Fur " the gentleman had chosen , 1 large male Indian gaur bison with the stipulation that the gaur be the heaviest and it's horns be the largest possible , which we can catch sight of . This was a stipulation which Allwyn Cooper Limited could certainly accommodate and thus Tobin and l were assigned to act as this gentleman's professional shikarees.
( You all can probably start getting a clue as to why this story will end badly . )
Tobin and l decided to take a look at our client's inventory :
The rifle was made by the English company , Birmingham Small Arms . It was a Mauser action rifle chambered in .458 Winchester magnum calibre. The end of the barrel near the muzzle had strange grooves cut into it . This , l would learn later , was called a muzzle brake and it was the very 1st time in my life that l had ever seen such a device . The rifle weighed little above 6 pounds . I asked the client " Sahib , is not the rifle a little too light for such a big calibre ? " . The Australian gentleman assured us that the muzzle brake took out much of the recoil out of the rifle and that such a device made heavy rifles , practically a thing of the past . With this rifle , the gentle man had brought 3 boxes of 500 grain solid metal covered cartridges manufactured by the American company " Winchester " .

The shot gun was made by the American company , Browning . It was the " Super Posed Lighting " over under model in 20 calibre with 3 inch chambers , ejectors and 28 inch barrels . The lower barrel was an improved cylinder choke and the upper barrel was a modified choke . For this shot gun , the gentleman had brought 3 boxes of no.6 cartridges ( 3 inch length ) manufactured by the American company , Winchester.
Here is a scanned photograph of an original advertisement card of Allwyn Cooper Limited , still in my possession after all these years. It illustrates the numerous species available for shikar if an international client wished to have Allwyn Cooper Limited as their outfitters .
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In the next part of this article , l shall detail the duck shikar.
 

Major Khan

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On the 9th , Tobin and l were off to the lakes on the outskirts of Nagpur with our enthusiastic client in Tobin's jeep . Along with us were my loyal servant boy , Ponual and a coolie . Tobin carried his FN .423 Mauser bolt rifle , loaded with 347 grain solid metal covered cartridges from the German company , RWS . I carried my old Belgian shot gun , my prized possession since 1959 . Even though l have already posted plenty of photographs of it on these forums and described that gun in great detail so many times , no article of mine is ever complete without paying homage to that grand old gun . So , here it is .
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My shot gun was loaded with 3 Inch Eley Gas Tight cartridges which were hand loaded with 16 bore spherical ball bullets . We also brought along an ice chest to store the carcasses of the ducks in , after the shikar. Ponual carried the client's 20 calibre Browning over under shot gun and a large leather bag full of no.6 Winchester cartridges.
When we finally reached the lakes , we saw it abundant with all forms of water fowl . In half an hour , the shooting had commenced. Here is a photograph taken by myself of 1 of the many streams found outside Nagpur where water fowl could be found by the hundreds back in the 1960s . These were our favorite spots for hunting teals , cranes and grey leg geese.
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Tobin served as the client's loader , slipping a brace of no.6 cartridges into the gentle man's hands after every couple of shots . The gentle man was comsiderably proficient with that 20 calibre Browning shot gun. With 22 cartridges , he managed to lay low 17 ducks in less than an hour . I was quite impressed . You see , in India and Bangladesh , 12 calibre is viewed as the normal shot gun calibre . However , Europeans with their 16 calibre shot guns and Americans and Australians with their 20 calibre shot guns have proven time and again , how deadly the smaller shot gun calibres can be in the right hands .
( This is nothing compared to what the future mother in law of Kawshik's niece , Mrs. Jenna Howard can do . That little Alabama lady's skill with a 28 calibre side by side Westley Richards shot gun on Bangladeshi quails and doves is flat out terrifying . It is like she manages to blow them away without even trying . )

Below , l have provided a photograph taken by myself of some of the ducks l have shot recently , to give all you gentlemen here an idea about some of the species of ducks available for shikar in Bangladesh and ( formerly ) India .
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In the next part of this article , l shall detail the ill fated gaur shikar.
 

Major Khan

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On the 11th , we were all off looking for a suitable gaur for our client to shoot in the forests near the edge of the Maharashtra state. Our party consisted of Tobin , myself , Ponual , our Shawtaal tracker ( Mintu ) and 4 coolies . Tobin and l carried our normal armaments . Ponual carried our client's Birmingham Small Arms .458 Winchester magnum calibre Mauser action bolt rifle , loaded with 500 grain Winchester solid metal covered cartridges and a leather satchel containing extra cartridges for our client.

We were following the tracks of a large male Gaur for 2 hours when we came across a large pile of gaur dung . Mintu took off his jootey ( an Indian cheaply made sandal of sorts ) and dipped his toes into the gaur dung to gauge it's warmness . He told us that the dung was still warm and so the Gaur could not have gotten far . This gave us all the encouragement that we needed and we eagerly went forward.
Our client now held his .458 Winchester magnum calibre bolt rifle in his own hands after taking it from Ponual.

True enough , 20 minutes later , we saw him . Funnily enough , he was in the edge of the forest near the road where we had parked Tobin's jeep . What this meant was that we had all gone around in a complete circle while tracking the gaur . He was a large , imposing looking specimen silently feeding on the grass in the forest floor . Just by looking at him , Tobin and l both knew that he weighed more than 2000 pounds . He was not aware of us . So , Tobin whispered to the client to quietly follow him . Tobin and the client crept up to the gaur until they were 25 yards away from the gaur and his broadside was exposed to them . I stayed behind them with Mintu , Ponual and the coolies . Tobin whispered to the client " Take out both the lungs and you're bringing that beeve home . " The client raised the .458 Winchester magnum calibre rifle to his shoulder , took off the safety catch and took aim , with Tobin right next to him . He fired . That gunshot is solely responsible for whatever happened next . Even though it all happened in a few seconds , to me everything flashes before my eyes as if it was going on , in slow motion.
The blast of gas from the muzzle brake combined with the flash and the horrifying sound ( it was louder than any other .458 Winchester magnum calibre rifle which we had ever heard discharge . ) completely disoriented Tobin . He was blind and deaf at the same moment !
To make matters worse , the gaur was perfectly hit , but instead turned to the direction of his tormentor and charged . The client took to his heels and just fled , leaving Tobin blind , deaf , screaming and defenseless . Fearing for my friend's life , l rushed to pull Tobin out of harm's way . Unfortunately , that brutish gaur got to Tobin before l did. It RAMMED Tobin hard in the stomach with it's horns and Tobin went flying a few feet back . I hurriedly snapped up my " Old Belgian " and fired both barrels behind the gaur's shoulder as it was turning . The brute ran off into the thickets , coughing blood from it's nose and mouth . I knew that l had hit both the lungs of the creature . I turned back and saw that our coolies had disappeared . Vanished , just like that . Only Mintu and Ponual had remained . I ran to my friend , Tobin with tears running down my eyes fearing for the worst . I was always a selfish and apathetic human being with no altruism or redeeming qualities in me . However , the few people in my life who actually meant something to me , were people whom l genuinely cared about . And old Tobin was 1 of them . Bear in mind that l was the sort of person who used human corpses as bait for man eating panthers and royal Bengal tigers without any hesitation whatsoever. I was THAT desensitized to blood and carnage . However , seeing my friend with a large bloody hole in his stomach , coughing mouthfuls of blood and using his hands in an attempt to stop his intestines and internal organs from poking out left permanent mental scars on me for many years and l would see nightmares of that day for many years. Mintu , Ponual and l managed to make an improvised bandage from Ponual's T shirt to bind around Tobin's stomach and we carried my friend out of the forest , desperately . Ponual had Tobin's FN .423 Mauser slung across his shoulders . I know that ethics demanded that l follow up the wounded gaur and recover it. However , l did not give a damn about ethics . I gave a damn about Tobin and getting him to the nearest hospital . We began to go towards where Tobin's jeep was parked near the edge of the forest and on the road . As we reached however , we realized to our terror that the jeep was gone . Tobin had left the jeep keys inside the ignition box and the client had gotten into the jeep and made off in a state of panic , leaving us stranded there .
In Despair , we laid Tobin on the ground while Ponual went forward along the road to see if he could signal truck driver to stop and help us. What a day , it was. No client , no car , no coolies. And here is my best friend bleeding and screaming in pain with a large hole in his stomach. Tobin begged me for some water . However , even though l wanted to give my friend my entire canteen full of cold water , which was slung on my waist , l did not give him any .
( I hope that none of my dear readers on this site ever find themselves in such a situation . However , if you are ever near some one who has been injured in the lungs or stomach , do not , under any circumstances , let them have any water . You will be doing more harm to them than good . )

Finally and Fortunately , Ponual was able to stop a truck passing along the road . The truck driver helped to drive Mintu, Ponual , Tobin and l to the nearest hospital . He lost a great deal of blood and the Doctors had an extremely difficult time stabilizing him. I used the hospital's telephone to give Mr . Shukla and Tobin's wife a telephone call and notify them of the grim news. I stayed in the hospital that night , seeing my friend struggle with his own mortality.
The next day , in order to keep my own mind distracted , l set off into the forest with Mintu to go find the wounded gaur if possible . We found him dead near a pond , roughly 70 yards away from where l had shot him . He had already begun to rot and a a great deal of flies and maggots were crawling over him. Bird droppings were all over him and pieces of his flesh had been torn away by wild dogs and jackals .
I used my camera to take a photograph of the dead brute to show it to Tobin ( l still held on to the hope that he might survive this ordeal . ) Below , l have provided the photograph of that nefarious brute which brought our shikar party to much grief.
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In the next and final part of this article , l will detail the aftermath of this incident and some reflections.
 

Major Khan

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Our client had taken the jeep all the way to the nearest police station. 2 days afterwards , he showed up at Allwyn Cooper Limited and claimed the pair of gaur horns . Then , he went back to Australia shortly after his trophy was exported. I will refrain from commenting about what l thought of him . The customer was always right , back in India in those days.
The Coolies who had left us to fend for ourselves in the forest showed up at Allwyn Cooper Limited less than a week later , demanding payment for their services. Mr. Shukla fired them without giving them even 1 paise.
I always had a healthy envy for Kawshik and Newaz and the way they were able to get their coolies and assistants to always stick by their side , come what may. Kawshik's coolies would be ready to lay their lives down for him if they ever saw a gaur come to attack him . They loved Kawshik that much. Newaz's elderly Garo servant , Wani lost his left hand by trying to protect Newaz from a wounded royal Bengal tiger in 1970. He loved Newaz that much . However , l have been abandoned by my coolies on more than 1 occasion when things got out of control and now as l think about it , through the eyes of an elderly man , l subscribe the reason to being my short comings as a good human being . While Kawshik and Newaz treated all their coolies and servants with love and respect , l was always very indifferent to my coolies and quick to scold them for any mistake which they made ( although , l never hit any of them . ) . Had l treated them the way Kawshik and Newaz would treat their coolies and servants , then they would probably never abandon me in my time of need either.

Tobin lost a kidney and a great deal of blood . However , he miraculously survived the ordeal by the grace of God . He was confined for his bed for the next 8 months . Tobin never guided an other shikar for dangerous game after that day . He only guided shikars for sambhur and cheetal deer for the rest of his career , as a professional shikaree until 1971.
In regards to the gaur... Upon cutting him open to do a post mortem , we found that the 500 grain Winchester solid metal covered bullet had only pierced 1 lung ( the left 1 ) and had remained in that lung. My 16 calibre hand loaded spherical ball bullet had fortunately managed to pierce both the lungs and that was what had eventually killed the gaur.
It goes without saying that the incident did not leave me with a very positive view of muzzle brakes or the .458 Winchester magnum cartridge . However , l had many more clients bring rifles with muzzle brakes or .458 Winchester magnum calibre rifles to Nagpur for shikar for the rest of my career. I just got used to it. It was relatively lonelier guiding shikars after that for dangerous game without Tobin Stakkatz near me anymore. Things were just not the same anymore.

I hope that this account has proven enjoyable.
 

Captain Nwz

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Poton , l cannot imagine how hard it must have been on you to actually have been there and seen it happen . I was downright scared when Amira and l received the news and visited Tobin in the hospital later . They had those tubes running out of his stomach and l still remember Tobin's screaming when the anaesthetic was not working . It was like being in Hell itself .
I have a genuine question about your opinion on the .458 Winchester magnum . Loaded with modern ammunition and propellants , would you feel comfortable guiding a client today for a Gaur shikar who came armed with a .458 Winchester Magnum ?
When l went to visit my elder son in Australia , l noticed that one of his friends uses a .458 Winchester magnum to hunt Water Buffalo there . It is a clone of the Winchester Model 70 , made by the Eastern European company , Zatsava.
 

Major Khan

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Wow! What a disgraceful embarrassment that clown was to my country! What a terrible thing to do! I’m very glad your friend recovered to the extent that he did. It seems you outlined another of the infamous failings of the early .458WM ammunition, too.
There are no vile countries , Ben KK. Only vile people. I had plenty of fearless clients from the land down under , as well . I do not hold any grudges against the client for fleeing when the gaur had charged. He was not a professional shikaree and thus it is natural that he may have feared for his life and abandoned us. My anger at him is because he stole our jeep and fled the area itself , which is bizzarre to say the least .
 

Major Khan

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I’m sure that was a hard story to tell, Major. Like all dangerous jobs, sometimes bad things will happen, and I am very glad he survived. I am sure that the jeep and the help of two or three more people would have shortened his suffering some. Very sad story.
That is true , Master Smith . In a profession like the 1 l had chosen , this was an occupational hazard . Today , it is exactly 51 years since the day of the incident.
 

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Not a "pleasant" story, certainly. But one definitely worth telling.
There's no knowing how any individual will react in a dangerous situation, until something dangerous does happen. Knowing about how others have reacted may help people when the time comes.
 

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The failures and poor performance of the early 458 Win. Mag. ammo has been well documented. Even though those problems have been corrected, many hunters prefer the 458 Lott over this caliber. It is too bad that guys like Tobin paid the price of the 458 Win. Mag. not living up to the hype.
 
 

 

 

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